Olentangy Park closed in 1937. Leslie L. LeVeque purchased the property and built the Olentangy Village Apartments. Knowing that the area needed entertainment, he built the Olentangy Village Bowling Center at 2815 N. High Street. It was constructed in a colonial design, in keeping with the architecture of the village and opened in 1940. At that time it was the largest and most modern bowling facility in Columbus. The center not only had 32 lanes, something unheard of at the time, it also offered a snack bar and even more. In the basement there was a pistol and archery range, billiards room, card rooms and even meeting rooms. It quickly became one of the most popular spots in Clintonville. At 21¢ a line, bowling was affordable for everyone. Some Clintonville residents that didn’t bowl went there to simply socialize.
Many North High students worked as pin setters. After WWII that changed. The Wolab Corporation manufactured the first efficient automatic pin setting machines. They were designed by Leveque, Sanders Frye and Michael O’Leary of Springfield, Ohio, especially for the Olentangy Village Bowling Center. They were installed in the late 1940’s, making it the most modern bowling alley in the country. After LeVeque’s death in a plane crash, the patent was sold to AMF.
The center was more than a place for North High students to “hang out.” When the policy of offering bowling at the center as part of the girl’s physical education program began, it was sometimes even called room 2815.
At 2:22 a.m. on October 27, 1980 tragedy struck when motors in the basement ignited, engulfing the entire building in fire. The $1.5 million blaze left only an office in the northeast corner untouched. Although the community wanted reconstruction, the Olentangy Village Bowling Center was torn down. Today the Giant Eagle Super Market stands on the property. However, it still remains in our hearts and memories.
Pam Ross Sanders ’61 - I remember that bowling was an elective for our gym class. The one memory that I recall is that we could not stop at the White Castle on our way to or from the bowling alley, even though we were bowling on the last two periods of the day. I loved bowling even though I wasn't the best bowler.
Judy Dean Yinger ’72 – Omgosh, the bowling alley...you really don’t want to hear my story - I promise, but I do remember it with a smile. Even my grandmother, as a young woman, would go there to dances at the park before they erected the bowling alley and the apartments. Do you remember Smiths Roller Rink? I also remember when we had the Hudson Theatre. Thank goodness the Indianola Theatre is still there, although it’s now called Studio 35. We really did have a lot to do and places to go in the neighborhoods as youngsters.
Dick Henry ’63 - I remember going to the Olentangy Village Bowling Alley with Sam Zogg to watch his father bowl in a league in 1944-45-46. I remember they had pin boys at the time, before automatic pin setters. The place was noisy and smoky. They had several pin ball machines that we could play. I remember going to the basement where there were archery targets, and, some type of rifle range. The pool hall was there in the basement, but we were not allowed in because of our age. There was a room down there with many ping-pong tables.
When I entered high school in 1950, I spent time there with my friends Jim West, Dick Stone, Sam Zogg, Pete Eckhart, Rusty Mortley, Bill Rector, Flip Mahaney and others. Guy Blair was manager of the facility at the time. He would come in and shoot pool with us and we would gamble about 10 cents a game. He took a lot of our money. We also played ping pong with Guy. I believe he was, at one time, a nationally ranked player. He could spot us 15 or 16 points and still beat us. We never spent much time in the bowling lanes. We were always in the lower level. We had some fun times there, it left me with many fond memories.
Jean McClure Miller ’5- I grew up on Olentangy St. and spent a lot of time in the bowling alley as a kid. Back then it was safe to run around the neighborhood all day, which most kids did. The bowling alley was a gathering place for people of all ages. I remember walking through those double white doors and walking across the maroon (I think) carpet, down the stairs to watch people play pool. You didn't have to have any money; you could just sit and watch people bowl and "hang out". The thing I remember most is the great aroma in there, and the sound of the pins dropping in the background. It was a sad day when, on my way to work one day, I saw fire trucks all over that area and then saw that the bowling alley had burned. It was a great loss.
Wally Palmer ’56 - Hope that we still have the bowling pin that I donated to the memorabilia room several years ago. I picked up pins the day after the fire in October of 1980. There was a mountain of bowling pins behind the remains of the bowling alley and I could have had a truckload had I known their memorabilia value at the time. You could see the actual charring on those pins, which proves that they were picked up after the fire. I probably should have collected nine more pins plus a ball, but you know what they say about hindsight.
Most of my memories of the bowling alley were concentrated in the basement, as I loved to shoot pool. Other memories were concentrated in the parking lot, but we won't go into that.
John Williams ’44 – There was quite a bit going on at the Olentangy Bowling Alley. Besides regular bowling, many manufacturing companies had leagues there. I was in one of them. But most of my time was spent playing table tennis in the basement. City and state table tennis championships were even played there. That was just one of three major areas. There was a rifle range in the northwest corner and also an archery range. It was a very popular place.
Mary Lou LaBounty Lawrence ’53 - ‘My dad, Frank LaBounty, was Assistant Manager of the Olentangy Village Bowling Alley during the l950's. He knew a lot of the North High kids going there and would often offer assistance with their bowling. He had a keen sense of humor and would often critique one's bowling skills. The only problem with that was he did it over the PA system for the entire world, or so it seemed, to know. Frank passed away in 1958 from the ravages of Myasthenia Gravis at the age of 50.
Barbara Hegler ’59 - I don’t remember what grade we were in, but instead of regular phys ed classes, we went 9th period to the bowling alley. Then we went home. I think that they planned it that way. I remember that if there were only one or two pins left standing we would sometimes jump up and down where we let go of the ball and sometimes they’d fall down. I also remember playing pool with my father. I took “Billiards” (really pool) as a phys ed class at OSU. I got an A and thought I was hot stuff. Actually, my partner and I found out that the instructor graded on how many shots we got into the pockets, so we just hit a lot to have more chances and it worked. So, my father, knowing this challenged me to a match. He’d played for many years at the old Clock Restaurant (now the Elevator) and other places and was good! He kept hitting the balls into the pockets one after the other and I barely got a chance to play. No rematch. He was too good for me.